Building a Stronger Workforce: Women’s Equality Day

Celebrated each year on August 26th, Women’s Equality Day marks the anniversary of the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Notably, the majority of women of color remained legally disenfranchised for decades. While the amendment was imperfect, the date serves as a reminder of the remarkable advancements in women’s rights, representation and social standing over the last century. From the women’s suffrage movement to groundbreaking legislation addressing workplace discrimination, we can take pride in the strides made towards equality. 

The same year marked the birth of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and, ever since, the agency has championed economic and social equality for women in the workplace. Significant progress has been made: more women are getting well-paying jobs, including in nontraditional occupations such as manufacturing and construction. The Biden-Harris administration has made equity a priority when it comes to projects funded by recent federal infrastructure and clean energy investments. More women are becoming entrepreneurs and more women are participating in decision-making processes than ever before. Yet, significant gender-based disparities persist.

We’ve made progress in narrowing the gender and racial wage gaps over time but, on average, women still earn less than their male counterparts. They have been outpacing men in educational attainment for decades, but even women with advanced degrees are paid less than similar men. And women are paid less in nearly all of the occupations for which we have data, in jobs ranging from chief executive to dishwasher. Women of color, transgender women and other marginalized communities often face even greater disparities. 

Most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds women who were employed full-time, year-round were only paid 84 cents per dollar earned by their male counterparts, with Black and Hispanic women earning significantly less compared to white non-Hispanic men. Bridging this gap requires that we recognize its existence and that policymakers advocate for fair and transparent pay practices and economic policies that promote equity. We must also continue to empower women to negotiate for fair pay. 

But women’s wages aren’t the only place where our work is far from finished. Women still face harm from gender-based violence and harassment. Despite increased awareness, countless women suffer from workplace harassment, street harassment and domestic violence. To create safe workplaces for all women, we need a comprehensive response, including legislation, workplace policies and cultural changes that foster respectful and inclusive environments.

Our nation has a collective responsibility to build a society that values, respects and empowers women in every aspect of life. By advocating for policy changes, engaging in crucial conversations and supporting one another, we can create a world where every woman has equal opportunities, rights and recognition.

The Women’s Bureau remains committed to advancing gender equality through advocacy, research and collaboration. Join us as we mark Women’s Equality Day and be a catalyst for change as we inspire progress towards a more inclusive, equitable future for all. Together, we can make a difference and bring about the meaningful change we seek.

Editor’s Note: Delia Garcia is regional administrator of the Women’s Bureau in the South Central Region

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